Is Getting Back With An Ex A Good Idea? Here’s What Science Says

When Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez tied the knot eighteen years after breaking up, it inspired talks about exes getting back together worldwide.

As it turns out, celebrities aren’t the only ones prone to getting back with their exes. 

The pandemic caused people all over the world to reconnect with their exes.

And this was driven mainly by loneliness and the feeling of seeking comfort in familiarity.

As with other things, there are no strict and clear rules regarding getting back with your ex. 

Before you rekindle the spark in your old relationship, read this article to give you more insight into what you should do next.

Top Reasons Why People Keep Getting Back Together with Their Exes

People gravitate towards dating their exes for several reasons. These are the most common reasons.

You don't want to be alone

We, humans, are a social species.

Many of our vital needs are determined by our relationships with other people, and one such need is security.

The absence of a relationship, or the loss of a relationship, can leave us feeling alone and vulnerable.

Because of this, we are motivated to form, maintain, or rekindle relationships.

And when we don’t have a partner, we seek comfort in familiar situations.

One study proved that people who fear being single are more likely to seek out their exes.

Naturally, those who have broken up with their partners feel incomplete.

They may even think that they cannot do anything without their partners.

This sense of incompleteness may drive them to get back with their exes.

Both of you have grown

If you haven't seen your ex for quite a while, you have likely undergone some personal growth.

Perhaps your relationship ended because of a series of misunderstandings, and you've grown since then.

And when you get back together, your growth journey will inspire you to understand each other better.

It’s not just the two of you that have changed; your relationship has also changed.

There are a lot of things that can change your relationship.

For example:

If you broke up because of conflicting career paths, you might think your current situation is finally better.

One study found that people who get back together assume that their partner has changed for the better during their time apart. 

Of course, this isn't always the case.

It's still recommended to discuss all the issues that caused your breakup in the first place.

After this, you can weigh the pros and cons of getting back with your ex. 

You never took time to reflect on your breakup

For most people, breaking up with their partner drives them to go on a path of reflection.

During this time, they examine their relationship, how they were as a partner, what they could have done better in their relationship, and many more. 

However, some distract themselves so much that they skip this phase. 

Because their schedules are full, they think they've already gotten over their relationship when, in fact, they are only burying their feelings by not giving themselves time to think.

When you reflect on your breakup, it enables you to develop a stronger sense of self.

For this reason, you feel confident that you can handle life without your partner. 

It also allows you to see the bigger picture of your life, which includes your potential new relationships.

And with this knowledge, you can choose to continue with the person you love or decide to push forward.

You still have lingering feelings

This is one of the most common reasons that drive people to get back with an ex.

Even when you break up with someone, your love for that person doesn't automatically stop.

You may still love them even if you don't want to be with them, and there may be certain aspects of your ex that you still like, even if other things didn't work out.

Ultimately, this will motivate you to try again.

You're still hoping that your ex will change

One study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science that questioned people on why they want to stay or leave their relationship found that optimism drives people to get back with an ex or stay in a relationship. 

If you genuinely believe that your partner will change for the better, then you would most likely get back with an ex.

And if you're the optimistic type, you may even believe that you have the power to change your partner. 

Nothing is wrong with this mindset as long as you remain realistic.

You've developed an intimacy with your partner that you can't let go of

The same study from the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science also found:

People may want to get back with an ex due to the dependence and intimacy they have developed over time.

Around 66% of the study participants admitted to this.

If you have a strong bond with your ex, there's a chance that you have developed a heightened sense of dependency.

In this case, you may think your relationship will never work well with someone else.

You may also think your ex is your only “one” for you.

It is common to feel that the intimacy you share with your ex is so deep that you never want to lose it, even after your relationship ends.

You may even think that the intimacy you have with an ex will be different from what you have with other people.

However, remember that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Although terrifying, it can improve your life, especially if you suffered from a toxic relationship with your ex.

You simply feel happier when you're in a relationship

According to data from YouGov, 3 in 10 Americans agree with the statement, “I’m only happy when I’m in a relationship.”

What's more interesting is that more men (37%) agree with it than women (23%).

Among those who agreed with the statement:

  • 30% have gotten back together with their ex more than once
  • and 21% have done it once

You suddenly don't feel as sad or empty when you're in a relationship.

You may feel that you have someone to turn to during your worst days or have someone to share your good and bad times with.

This drives you to cling to your partner, even when things don't work out.

And while you may want to stay strong and single, your desire to not be alone will push you to change your mind.

You still have sex

You may think hooking up with your ex means nothing, but science can prove you wrong.

When you have sex with someone, your brain releases oxytocin, a hormone that makes you feel closer to each other. 

And even if you don't feel connected to your partner after hooking up, there's no guarantee your partner feels the same way. 

You still see each other's life updates on social media

Even if you're not friends with your ex on Facebook or Instagram, you may still see their updates on your newsfeed if you have mutual friends. 

Once this happens, it may stir up feelings you may have buried deep down.

It may also remind you of your past relationship.

And even if you’ve unfriended or unfollowed your ex on social media, it's still possible that you may check out your ex's page from time to time (a.k.a. stalking).

Knowing your boundaries on social media is crucial, considering 34% of people cannot move on from their past relationships because they're still connected to their ex online.

You've enforced new relationship rules

You may have done so with clear conditions and stipulations when you've gotten back with your ex.

Enforcing new rules that inspire change in relationships.

For example:

47.5% of relationships that ended due to cheating made new rules that contributed to the success of their relationship.

This could be sharing phone passwords or not going out after midnight. 

15 Scientific Facts About Getting Back with an Ex

Here’s what science says about getting back with your ex.

1. Couples that break up and get back together again more often have a higher rate of conflict. This can include verbal and physical abuse.

2. Receiving high amounts of resources from an ex increases the chance of getting back together. These resources can be money, information, or status.

3. A pattern of breaking up and getting back together, called “relationship cycling,” can make people sick. This psychological distress can be in the form of depression and anxiety.

4. One 2020 study found that people who are most driven to rekindle the spark in an old relationship feel that way because they have lost their sense of self.

5. Around 505 couples admitted to getting back together after breaking up, according to a study published in the Journal of Social and Public Relationships.

6. In one study, 14.38% of participants who got back with their ex broke up again within almost a year.

7. There is a higher probability for women (33.28%) to get their ex back than men (23.47%).

8. Age can affect your chances of getting back together with an ex. Those over 50 had the most success getting back with an ex and keeping them. People from 18 to 24 years old have a high chance of breaking up within a year of getting back together. Meanwhile, those aged 25 to 30 had the lowest success rate.

9. The length of the relationship can also affect your chances of getting back together with an ex. Relationships that last 2 to 5 years had the highest success rate of getting back and staying together with an ex. The success rate goes down for relationships that last over 5 years.

10.  In one study, most participants reported getting back together with their ex within 6 months after their breakup.

11.  Around 78% of participants in one study said they were happy after getting their ex back, and 60% said the new relationship was worth it. Another 74% said their new relationship is better than their old one.

12.  Self-improvement is one of the reasons that helped people get their ex back.

13. According to the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Texas, around 65% of US college students broke up and got back together again.

14.  Around 10 to 17% of separated married couples attempted to get back together. Furthermore, married couples who reunite after divorcing have a 72% chance of staying together for the rest of their lives.

15.  Another study on getting back together with an ex shows that most people are willing to overlook the following:

  • Cheating (57%)
  • Financial instability (60%)
  • Caught the partner lying (63%)
  • Excessive alcohol or drug use (69%)
Author Profile

Sebastian Klein is the founder of RelationshipsAdvice.co. He loves writing insanely practical guides based on scientific studies to help couples and individuals create the relationship they want. After a tough breakup, he started studying relationship dynamics to help people get from the “What should I do?” to “How to do it.” If you want to get in touch with him, visit his blog.

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